Guidance on SEA Statements and Monitoring

Summary: This report provides stand-alone guidance on SEA Statements and monitoring. It is included as part of the EPA-funded project Second Review of SEA Effectiveness in Ireland (González et al., 2020). It is specific to the Irish context but has wider international applicability. The monitoring recommendations include guidance on indicators to facilitate a more consistent and coherent approach at this SEA stage.

Published: 2020

ISBN: 978-1-84095-883-6

Pages: 32

Filesize: 2,081KB

Format: pdf

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This report is based on the EPA-funded project Second Review of Strategic Environmental Assessment Effectiveness in Ireland (González et al., 2020). It included, as an appendix, in the report findings of this project and has been extracted into a stand along guidance document. It is specific to the Irish context but has wider international applicability. The monitoring recommendations include guidance on indicators to facilitate a more consistent and coherent approach at this SEA stage.

 

SEA Statements

SEA Statements have the potential to play a central role in summarising the effectiveness of the SEA process. They can capture how environmental considerations have shaped the plan/programme (e.g. through policy wordings, revisited zonings and other measures) and how the process has contributed to making the plan or programme more sustainable. This is best accomplished by presenting the proposed mitigation measures and relevant related recommendations and indicating how they have been considered and/or incorporated into the plan/programme.

Much of the information that must be included in a SEA Statement should ideally already be included in the Environmental Report (e.g. the alternatives considered). Indeed, the SEA Statement should “tell the story” of the SEA process from start to finish.

SEA Statements, along with monitoring, are probably the weakest area of SEA practice both nationally and Europe wide. The second review of effectiveness of SEA in Ireland project found shortcomings across all aspects of SEA Statement requirements, including:

  • lack of detail on how environmental considerations have been integrated;
  • listing of mitigation measures without an indication as to whether or not they have been incorporated into the plan/programme;
  • poor documentation of consultation feedback and how this has been taken into account;
  • lack of monitoring indicators for plan/programme implementation;
  • and an unnecessary emphasis on the SEA methodology followed.

 This guidance provides suggested step-by-step recommendations for practitioners to help improve the SEA Statement preparation process.

 

SEA Monitoring

In Ireland, national legislation puts the onus for SEA monitoring on the plan-making authorities, requiring that they monitor the significant environmental effects of their plans/programmes. However, national legislation does not specify reporting requirements or assign any third-party authority oversight or enforcement functions in relation to SEA monitoring.

Monitoring can help to evaluate whether SEA is fulfilling its core objective of providing for a high level of protection of the environment and the promotion of sustainable development. It requires committed investment and effort, but it can lead to significant benefits including:

  • helping reveal the 'real' effects of implementing a plan / programme and test the effectiveness of the SEA
  • allowing data gaps to be filled by identifying knowledge gaps and collecting new data over time, which should reduce uncertainties in the assessment and future iterations of the plan.
  • monitoring indicators over time can identify long-term changes and trends in the environment, including those not directly linked to the plan/programme (e.g climate change)
  • identifying unforeseen effects or impacts that may not have been identified in the assessment
  • monitoring environmental changes can help identify the need for addtional mitigation measures or remedial action, as well as informing project level assessments